"ONE. LAST. JOB!"
There are only a few months left before a whole new generation of consoles are released, and Rockstar has come to take this generation out with a bang; and that bang is called Grand Theft Auto V.
The name itself shakes the gaming industry to its core. We all have our memories with the series. Assassinating a Chinese Mafia head by planting a bomb in his car with 8 Ball, driving around the beautiful islands in Vance’s white sports car, taking over turfs with Sweet, or bowling with Brucie. We’ve done it all in Rockstar’s open-world crime series.
Rockstar took a more serious tone with Grand Theft Auto IV, striking out all the satire that San Andreas introduced us to. With Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar wants to maintain a balance between the satire, and the serious and it works out beautifully.
Grand Theft Auto V is the first in the series to have three playable protagonists that you can switch to at any time in the open-world, or in the missions that have more than one protagonist taking part. The crew includes Michael, a now-retired bank robber, living in a luxurious house with a dysfunctional family. Franklin, a hustler living in South Central Los Santos, looking for the big break; and Trevor, the maniacal, unpredictable nut job.
Through a prologue, we meet Michael and Trevor, 10 years before the events of the game, together in a bank job. The game wastes no time throwing you right into the action. After killing some cops, and evading some cop cars, and killing some more cops, the crew finds itself in a sticky situation. One of the crew members dies, Michael gets shot, and Trevor has to escape by himself. Michael then fakes his death in order to quit the game and live peacefully with his family.
Skip to 10 years later, Michael living his retired life with a rebellious daughter, a no-good son, and a cheating wife, Franklin doing repo jobs for a car showroom, and Trevor running his guns and drugs business out in the countryside. The way these characters are introduced to each other in the story feels very smooth, and their interactions are some of the best cut-scenes in the game.
The story itself has a weird pace to it that I never got comfortable with. It can wind up, and then let up in less than 2 hours, then wind up again. I didn’t know what the overarching story of the game was until maybe 60% in, and it all concludes too hastily. More could’ve been done with the characters, and I was left feeling unsatisfied with Franklin, especially.
Of course, when a crew of misfits get together, there’s bound to be blood; and soon you’ll find yourself in need of money to pay-off a major mafia head from killing you.
How you get that money is through heists. Newly introduced to the series, the heist missions let you choose the type of heist, the crew, and sometimes the equipment. They introduce a sense of flexibility previously not present in GTA games; that means the outcome of the missions can vary based on the quality of the crew and equipment that you chose. The handful of missions themselves are the most fun and memorable missions in the game.
Other missions have you doing tasks that feel appropriate for the character. Eliminating the ludo-narrative dissonance problem that has plagued every open-world game to date. So, Michael will be visiting his therapist, Franklin will be helping his cousin’s addict girlfriend, Trevor will be selling guns to the Chinese triad. It all feels very natural.
Those that had a problem with GTA IV‘s stiff driving mechanics will be happy to be know that GTA V takes a more arcade-like, loose approach to driving. The driving, shooting, flying, and traversing all feel good. However, I found myself befuddled by some of the game’s old design choices. In a world that games like Saints Row IV and Infamous exist, sometimes driving across the whole map in a slow-ass truck feels weirdly nostalgic. Like this is how games used to be!
Outside of missions, there are tons of things to be done. There are Strangers and Freaks missions, there are activities and past-times, there are properties to buy and run, there is the internet in which you can buy stocks, check your equivalent of Facebook and Twitter, or watch online videos, there are street races, off-road ATV/Bike races, parachuting challenges, hunting, drug-trafficking… the list goes on and on. Not all of them are fun, but nonetheless, you will always have things to do in San Andreas.
San Andreas itself is humongous, filled with details, vibrant and alive, and gorgeous to look at. It’s a shame that most of the time driving your eyes will be glued to the mini-map, missing all the glorious vistas and sights.
Rockstar has successfully made another great GTA game, with enough new elements and twists to keep you playing through its long story. The heists are a wonderful addition to the series, and the 3 playable protagonists introduce a new dynamic that could be the next big thing with open-world games. While it’s not the best in the series, it is one hell of a game to ride out these last few months with our old consoles.